Chez Panisse Chef Cal Peternell at Yale

When it was announced that Chef Cal Peternell from Chez Panisse was coming to Yale, I knew I had to go. It was like my two worlds — the Bay Area and Yale — were colliding in one fantastic meal. I had been to Chez Panisse once, on my fifteenth birthday. In addition, I had been to every Guest Chef (or as I commonly call it, “Celebrity Chef”) event hosted by Yale Dining. This was the first chef whose name I actually recognized. And so, even when I was put on the wait list for the event, I hounded the event coordinators to get in. And I did.

Like all of the previous Guest Chef Events, the menu was created by Chef Peternell, but the cooking was conducted by the Yale Dining staff. Some dishes were more stellar than others. Overall, all of the dishes were better than the dining hall food. Some of my eating-mates expressed disappointment, but I left my meal pleased.

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Iceberg lettuce salad.

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Deviled eggs with curry and saffron.

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The roasted butternut squash hummus was excellent. I probably devoured 3/4 of this bowl.

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Chef Peternell spoke, but mostly read from his new book.

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These meatless meatballs were meh.

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The twice-cooked pork with salsa verde was definitely the best main dish. Filling, rich, and good.

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Braised chicken legs.

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The macaroni and cheese was no different from the regular dining hall macaroni and cheese (which is pretty good) save for the oven-baked bread cumb topping.IMG_1093

Pear upside-down cake.

Best Value Meal Swipe: Suvir Saran at Yale

I’ve discovered there is some value in checking my e-mail in college. Free shirts, free cookies, free concerts, and sometimes – an essentially free meal by a Michelin-star chef. When I saw the e-mail from Yale Dining about a “Celebrity Cooking Demo,” I immediately signed up. Supposedly, the sign-up sheet was filled within a matter of minutes.

For my $12 dollar meal swipe, I received a four-course meal on linen tablecloths served by waiters in white – a stark contrast to the usual buffet-style dinners served in the dining hall. Most of all, I enjoyed sitting down for a meal (it lasted over two hours) during a hectic week of midterms. Meals here often feel, and are, rushed. It was nice to take time talk with friends and strangers alike over good food.

When I arrived at the table, I was immediately thrust a basket of warm pita and urged to try the various dips set up. They were delicious. My favorite was the baba ganoush, or as Suvir Saran described it, his “eggplant salsa.” The red salsa on the left also had a great kick to it (and no, it tasted nothing like Mexican salsa). The hummus was nice, but did not come close to the superior texture and taste of the Armenian hummus I enjoy in San Francisco.

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Suvir Saran spoke for quite a while on the dishes we were being served and his interest in producing healthy, sustainable food. Unfortunately, once the dishes were served (as Saran was speaking), the focus was on eating food and not listening to him.

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Shrimp in Curry with Corn. The curry was positively delicious.

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The next few dishes were served family style.  Please excuse the less than ideal photography (a result of the lighting and my distance from certain dishes on the table). They were less satisfying after the fabulous shrimp, but more satisfying than a typical dining hall meal.

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The dessert was definitely the least satisfying dish as the flavors were bland and the texture grainy and foreign. It was a kind of Indian pudding with raisins. I don’t think the Commons dining hall staff knew what they were serving.

ImageThanks Suvir for the best dining hall meal I’ve had yet!

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